Nightscript Vol. IV

A2B3035B-C408-457B-A649-3A05262AE7D0
CHTHONIC MATTER 2018

Edited by C.M. Muller

Stories by V.H. Leslie, J.T. Glover, Joanna Parypinski, Steve Rasnic Tem, L.S. Johnson, Daniel Braum, M. Lopes da Silva, Mathew Allan Garcia, April Steenburgh, Charles Wilkinson, Farah Rose Smith, Armel Dagorn, Cate Gardner, Jackson Kuhl, Christi Nogle, Ross Smeltzer, Jennifer Loring, Tim Jeffreys, Elana Gomel, Mike Weitz, Kirsty Logan.

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

28 thoughts on “Nightscript Vol. IV

  1. Sugar Daddy by V. H. Leslie

    “Once Amira and Zahra found a recipe for Nostradamus’ love jam among their father’s books.”

    Amira brings home a boy friend almost as old as her widowed father. Afternoon tea is chosen as an optimum occasion for such a meeting with her father. Her sister Zahra turns up, too. Recipes, like words as ingredients of fiction, can conjure up all manner of smells and tastes and consistencies of bite. But each bite must be topped with something nice … here, today, Dad’s pomegranate jam. This quirky story makes ‘quirky’ feel sticky. When motives clarify under the guise of clouding up. And Dad’s elixir of aspic makes for a paradoxically easy exit with just a single lick and a promise. Mum still turning in her urn?

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/v-h-leslie/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/interzone-247/

  2. There Has Never Been Anyone Here by J. T. Glover

    “She wipes sweat from her face, reaches out to run one finger along something that feels too sinewy and sticky for rope.”

    A bit like Dad’s pomegranate jam? This accretively cloying work represents a
    leasehold series of fragments, i.e. interviews, on-line message boards, articles, even up front story-telling by the freehold author about Francesca around which the hauntings seem to centre, I assume. Between such chronologically non-linear fragments (some even from our current future) are periods of being stuck as if between fully tuned radio stations. We need to build the gestalt. Or, rather, unknot it. And when we do, hand in Glover, we receive slowly building signals of which even the author seems unaware, I sense. Between the cracks, rather than the lines.

    “Even as she swings the hoe, she’s thinking gas cans, matches, purification.”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/j-t-glover/

  3. ​​The Thing in the Trees by Joanna Parypinski

    “Feeling as if I’ve just drunk pomegranate juice in hell, I set down the empty bottle and take a step back from the fire.”

    I found this a most haunting, obliquely meaningful experience where a park’s ranger becomes a stranger, a cross-dream of reality and visionary visitations by people in trees, dealing with the nature of anxiety, marriage, transgender and identity. I need say no more. Unmissable.

  4. A4AF321A-6E8D-4F32-9C60-8064C6D7B6DFBy the Sea by the Steve Rasnic Tem

    “Like her parents, her siblings, and herself, they were people who lived their entire lives without notice, subject to the whims of the planet, of the weather and climate change, of the politicians and the governments and the armies…”

    Subject to the world’s ominous ocean, figuratively and in reality, its “hungry dream”, a naive, but powerfully wise, portrait of the naive, but powerfully wise, Sarah from childhood to age. The Age of Attrition’s final Accretion. The ocean’s or sea’s detritus and its inferred found-art, as I myself find and capture visually every day. Here I am alerted to its final found-art, as I shall call it, a found-art of which I was not aware… till now.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/steve-rasnic-tem/

  5. A Harvest Fit for Monsters by L.S. Johnson

    “Besides, there was hardly anyone in town now; hardly anyone anywhere. It was a country of old women and little children. All their strength and vigor was rotting in the fields, in the swaths of land lapping at that single contested border, just a line on the maps of madmen.”

    Besides, this powerfully restrained story is of a war with blood drenching the land, a sort of reverse form of harvest, drenching their crops, their children. A well-characterised woman, herself permeated with the endless war’s history, her mind mixing despair and stoicism, meets one returning soldier with the circumstantial evidence that he is the “monster” general in lonely retreat, but assuring her that it is mere resemblance. She entertains him, gives him shelter, for a while, yet hatching plans for some form of retribution. The story itself shares such endless attrition with its own structure of telling itself.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/l-s-johnson/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/interzone-247/#comment-8472

  6. The Monkey Coat by Daniel Braum

    “Bring no suffering into your body. June supposed this also included wearing no suffering, apparently.”

    A strange story that leaves you with the lingering thought that you are left wearing it, with your legs in the sleeves, instead of the arms. A reader laid bare. A story that has been kept in a special lock-up that probably needs a combination code to unlock it it. A story of June and her flighty daughter Ivy, a story with a Jewish background, and an ivory complexion, the modern fashion of conscience against such cruelty to animals, and June’s inheritance of a real fur coat made from a hopefully roadkilled – not purposely killed – monkey, a coat that once belonged to her high life grandmother in Paris, or was it her ex David now in Paris whom she runs to ground? Why did I think that Flannery O’Connor might enjoy this story? And I thought also of serial murders in the Rue Morgue. A gestalt of were-monkeys … or men. A study in rage and lust.

    “So it felt like David, or more like what had been their life, had shattered into parts, all of them lesser, each of them a distinct piece of what they had and what he had been to her, and each of the parts residing in the different men she kept around.”

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/daniel-braum/

  7. Seams by M. Lopes da Silva

    “The town was about six square blocks that included a diner, a drug store, a movie theatre that wouldn’t open until seven that evening, a hardware store, an antiques shop, and a sewing supplies shop…”

    “Scissors are for paper, shears are for cloth,”

    I use scissors, then shears, to the quilted texture of this accretive fable of the small town enclave and newcomer wife variably called Leslie or Lee, at first a gentle tweezering by my critique at the odd stitch of this work’s portrait of womanhood, then a hasty flaying outward from the seams towards a resonating moral that weighs liberation of self-beauty against a Stepford Wife slavery and ripping off the scab before the wound is healed against a gradual acclimatisation to the ugly scab itself. The scab that covers existence’s holes and pitfalls…?

    “She couldn’t bear to look at the voids that pocked her; when she had a friend nearby, Leslie felt the voids diminish to pinpricks. Mark couldn’t scare so much as a pothole away, for some reason.”

    “But the thrill of the hunt, the lifting brush, had lit the days when nothing else could. / There was a quilt of emerald green boas twining among butterflies and flowers, and Leslie felt her heart kick like a leg.”

    Provocative and haunting work. With beautiful long opera-coats that are in synergy with the earlier monkey ones in the trees?

  8. A Gut Full of Coal by Mathew Allan Garcia

    “I was eight years old when I began working in La Coronita, and I must have moved coal through hundreds of miles of tunnels such as the one Ignacio and I now enter.”

    This is a powerful story of hauling memories, the dead still living, search of one’s dead daughter in the mine, boys and girls not working in chimneys but in mining tunnels, the eyes of the devil. This is also my own mine presented here, mine by quirk of fate or preternaturality, ‘osmotic with the critic’ (synchronously mentioned here earlier today). My paternal grandfather worked in the South Wales mines, and worked as a ‘hauler’ which was the job of hauling coal through the tunnels and hopefully to the surface. On the ancient census (now on-line) that I investigated to find this fact out, the job was misspelt by the ancient handwriting as ‘hawler’. A cross of crawler and bawler or howler? Also this story is mine to cherish as it evokes my earth’s core where I once placed Azathoth’s lair in my erstwhile novel about the Hawler called ‘Nemonymous Night’. This Garcia story, meanwhile, is a unique and separate tale of poignancy of mine-working, childhood, salvage as a zombie or a ghost and eventual come-uppance down there. A Latin American atmosphere of pungent food and families splitting and blending with each of their emerging backstories. Including the narrator that called himself the me that is mine and maybe yours, too. C’mon Daddy, my own grown-up daughter says, while visiting me today.

    “It’s just our breathing and the silence that thrums through the cave walls, like the lifeblood through the veins of a god that is always hungry.”

  9. Crow Woman by April Steenburgh

    “She was not beautiful in any normal way, but most definitely somehow insidiously so.”

    “There was no awareness of self, of tools—just creation. I missed that. It was some of what had prompted me to purchase a tiny house in the middle of nowhere.”

    This inveigling, crow-diffuse story was my own unplanned house guest of the mind, I guess. I call the narrator he because he is me. About a man, an artist, full of life’s anxieties and, arriving at his new home on the outskirts, he takes for granted the eponymous entrance along with him of his unplanned house guest, a woman without self-consciousness about her sporadic nudity. The curtains of his life he uses as ad hoc screening as well as her shelter of clothing . He pampers her whims. As I do this story’s insidiousness. You see, it ultimately steels me against what I once feared. Steals something from me only to give it back better.
    Crows too diffuse to be coal?

  10. The Dandelion Disorder by Charles Wilkinson

    “Not one room in their tiny, cluttered cottage had resisted the advance of Theo’s current project, a series of paintings with the provisional title ‘The Legends of the Plants.’”

    “She hadn’t told Theo about their child, not yet showing beneath her billowing skirts, barely visible even when she was naked.”

    There seems to be something uncannily and unintentionally resonant between this story and the previous one. A small house, more sketching, a naked caterer to the artist’s needs, increasingly begrudged. Crows there, swifts here. The man who is the artist here is more pretentious and a Jack of all trades, master of none, and resents the prospective arrival of a child….
    There seems to be many superstitions attached to dandelions, although the glow under the chin depicting riches I thought was a buttercup? But I see my assumption was wrong. As were my assumptions regarding this artist’s decline transposed to an Aickman-like haunting. Coatless, a monkey shrunk? And again, as with the previous story, I was strangely uplifted by the whole thing. Gave me confidence, somehow, to continue, even at my age. My head like a stripped dandelion.

    “As she expected, he was walking, swiftly and coatless, in the direction of the village inn.”

    “This time it was huge, a kind of furry head on a green stem.”

    My many previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/charles-wilkinson-christopher-harman/

  11. Of Marble and Mud by Farah Rose Smith

    “A great curtain from the sky will fall down, draping over the memory of the black tree.”

    One of those curtains again… maybe in the same role as went before in this book? This is a highly intangible dreamscape of two sisters, where one, I believe, harms the other and then regrets it, in a world of Gothic surrealism that reminds me of the days of the ancient poetic Gothic mag I used to inhabit with my countless prose poems and vignettes. Subsuming nights with bones and flesh of the dead. And that gave me a sense of nostalgia. And I knew I understood this work but understood it somewhere away from the place in my mind or brain with which I usually have such understanding. That may turn out to be good or bad but, either way, you can’t have one without the other, Helen and Vanessa, Marble and Mud, understanding and not understanding…

    “I forget the meaning of all things and bask in the eternity of not knowing.”

  12. All Is There Already, Just Not Seen Yet by Armel Dagorn

    “…wanted to jam together stories and places that had nothing to do with each other. […] …borderline mystical about it, about how a setting, with its historico-mythical baggage, could influence, weave tapestries in the unconscious.”

    Sounds akin to gestalt real-time reviewing the type of books I tend to read. Each book a breakfast buffet that is always different. A story of an atmospheric film being made in French woods, the backstory of the filmmakers involved, including the narrator’s, a certain sexual attachment, and acting and scenes almost made randomly but with some oversight by preternature. The best I can do is quote liberally from it… central to my ethos, as it is, even if there may have been satire present, too!

    “I knew it was our brains teasing weirdness out of the dark,…”

    “Do you try so,” Sajid had been asked, “to allow viewers to insert their own ideas, their own bits into your stories?”
    “No I don’t. Or rather they don’t. All is there already. Just not seen yet. And what one person may see, another might not perceive. You see what you want to see, I guess. So really, you’re out making a film that might well be about something you don’t even know about.”

    “I saw things, as I sat there in the cinema, that shouldn’t, couldn’t have been there.”

    “I always try to spot something new, and I always do. The problem is I never see again what I saw the previous time.”

    I shall read this story again tomorrow, when blanks and stumbling stones will likely change places. See my review entry yesterday here.

  13. Half-Girls by Cate Gardner

    “Be careful with your sister,” Mother said. “You’ll drown her.”

    This is a vision of sororal synergy and symbiosis, and is a resonant symphony along with the two sisters in the Farah Rose Smith story, each with a sister’s name beginning HE- and the other ending -A. Helen and Vanessa there. Heather and Cordelia here. This Gardner work is a kaleidoscopic sea symphony of words with and about ‘weight’ and urban high-rises, as well as floating, sinking and swimming, a blend of grub-urchin and mermaid. A poignant tale of another sister seemingly harming the other, then, when lost from each other, sister seeking sister perhaps to sew their bodies back together again, or vice versa, while fighting, through the years, against loss of parents. Against previous parental misintention. And against avuncular lust, perhaps. Against the mythic mer-forces within or outside the sea’s cage. The inconsistencies of gravity. Sometimes a prose style staccato with scissors, wave-scissors near the edge of a table — scissors, rock and paper. I infer. Sometimes also a prose style that flows like the sea itself with the gothic surrealism that I have noticed before in this book. “—the disability borne from being alone rather than conjoined.” I am still tussling in my head with this work’s forces. The yearning to make two halves unsewn resewn, or sewn unsewn… towards the optimum permutation. Yet, I fear for their own sororal misintentions. And whether they found each other again, so as to become the gestalt … and it is lonely being the only one aware of a conspiracy — or of how a story ends.
    As an aside, my own version of Cordelia is here. If you look carefully, you can see her faint face in the glass of the framed picture.

    “The please-don’t redundant for it was already done.”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/cate-gardner/

  14. A Different Sunlight by Jackson Kuhl

    “gibberish about an Antichthonic sun and Phaetonic rays”

    Randall’s Father….. Sounds as if the father belongs to Randall, rather than the other way round! This story opens more than one reader’s eye, more than two, if you have more than two. Such as a house sprouting plumber’s pipework like foliage. Anyway, Randall’s father was a bit hopeless; he lost a patent for a major invention, a machine that built a house whole like those machines that once laid railtracks lock-stock-and-barrel along the lands of America where this unique story is set. That loss of patent hung over the family like a shadow. There are some amazing inventions in this story that chime with the dozing and waking dreams I have had since childhood. This is the author’s story, of course, but it is also the story’s author.

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/jackson-kuhl/

  15. Cinnamon to Taste by Christi Nogle

    “And there are all these complicated histories behind the things we say.”

    Earlier pomegranate jam, now a babka in a bakery built up meticulously and with follow-me hints. There is no doubt that we have here a story that is special, a story that you know is noteworthy for future generations of readers. So I officially, herewith, with this review, make it thus noteworthy. It is definitely frightening, dislocatory, haunting, a tale of Marnie and Cindy, roughly the same age as each other, though I sense they are aunt and niece, brought together now, brought together in their past complicated history, through intangible means, to run a bakery. A Sapphic aura on Marnie’s part, but Cindy dates a man called Luke, but who knows? They have their arguments and one day when Marnie makes manoeuvres to leave with her luggage, we look at things as if through her eyes of maple syrup. I cannot explain it. It is inspiring as well as very worrying. Either a nervous breakdown or symptoms of a fiction infection? No ‘echolocation’ will solve it. Though there are echoes of Heather and Cordelia, Helen and Vanessa, earlier in this book, that may help you. But only reading this Nogling story will suffice for you to see what you think. And you will not be the same person after reading it, I am certain. Maybe, I have been thus uncharacteristic in some of the things I have just said while reviewing it. Real-time reviewing helps, though. Transcending the maple syrup filter. Or trying to do so, at least.

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/christi-nogle/

  16. The Strigoaica by Ross Smeltzer

    “‘Nothing ill can come of precautions,’ I said.”

    A workmanlike, well-honed, horror-laced submergence in the myths and Vlach lands of the Boyar and their endemic fears, or what one assumes to be fears, between the genders and between the monsters and me, too. Not didactic so much as transcendent, precautions and fears alike. Do fears need monsters to create such fears? Do monsters need fears to create such monsters? The tale of a young sixteen year old girl to an old boyarina, about how she travelled through the woods with men who warned her of the wood’s or world’s dangers, or were they the dangers themselves? She wished she heeded both possibilities, I guess. Even about to whom she told this, and why and what desires or dangers lurked between unlikely forces, the inferred Sapphic as well as the clearly Saved or Suffered.

    “The peasants of this village still tell tales of the Magus of Gorgota, a tinkerer in magicks, and a necromancer; one who stitched fairies with wasp wings just to see them squirm;”

    “The danger is behind you.”

    “No, boyarina. Alas, this night I have found that not all monsters are born in dreams and nightmares.”

  17. Swim Failure by Jennifer Loring

    “…the creativity she translated into strokes and splashes of acrylic.”

    A painter’s rite of passage from the light pollution and oppressive populace of the city to an icy pond in the middle of nowhere. A pond echoing a lake in her beginning past. Strongly conveyed and felt. With ghosts half-glimpsed. Real relationships questioned. I was in tune with the lot of the artist presented here and the final selfie to be constructed into a gestalt stroke by stroke. Splash by splash.
    Also, now, I am able no longer to question why, out of the blue, I wrote something called ‘The Colour of Pain’ a few days ago (first posted as shown below), before reading this story…. I don’t often write new things, these days.

    “Clinging to her pain as if it meant something, as if it meant more than the pain of those her work had left behind.”

  18. Visions of the Autumn Country by Tim Jeffreys

    “It was a relief of sorts, for what is this creative compulsion if not a curse? […] It turns out some people like the dark disturbing stuff. The dark, disturbing stuff has made me a living for twenty-five years.”

    An ageing painter artist of darkness and pain whose “limbo-land” somehow resonates with the Colour of Pain piece I wrote above a few days ago! This Jeffreys is a simply couched story but one for the type of which I am a sucker, depicting paintings with an autonomous life of their own, dark snapshots taken from some artistic realm that exists somewhere in the Gestalt consciousness, here involving the artist’s childhood imaginary friend Gangel and this story’s eponymous mythos, the artist’s living mythos, hooded figures as the Council of Eight, and when his caring but seemingly unartistic daughter comes to visit him, the story eventually reaches an effective, if predictable, culmination. But what was really in the sack that, all those years ago, the artist’s own mother dug from the garden when tending flowers? Or did I imagine that scene?

    My previous reviews of this author: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/the-haunted-grove-tim-jeffreys/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/tim-jeffreys/

  19. Stella Maris by Elana Gomel

    “Venice is festooned with laundry hung on lines strung across alleys. And because the air is so humid, the laundry takes forever to dry, sheets and baby clothes growing into the ropes like fruit on vine.”

    Ordinary enough, such laundry lines, you’d say. This vision of Venice is anything but ordinary, though, and that was just a correct alarm, as opposed to a false one. It is an extremely powerful depiction of a famous city in nervous breakdown, with sudden entities that, if I forewarned you about them, you would kick me into one of the canals for spoiling their spoiling… “Art is art.” This story says that somewhere. But Venice’s art, once burgeoning in every chapel and palazzo, is stripped out. You are falsely forwarned, perhaps. But a question – is the nightmarishly visionary breakdown the breakdown of the city’s own nerves but is it (instead or also) the breakdown of the woman through whose eyes we see it, a woman in life’s decline, with enticing but baggy breasts, enough for any gondolier to want to shaft? Her man called Owen disowned. This seems to be the counterpart of Nogle’s earlier depiction in this book of a major nervous breakdown. Two works making a diptych that this book must proudly own. Also, this Gomel made me think….. I rarely criticise a story for where it goes, or how it ends. It is as if every story I serendipitously choose to read is meant to be. It is what it is. What happens happens, perfectly, whatever the misgivings. A story owns itself. Owns itself beyond its own author’s own claim to own it. Art is indeed art. This story is surely the apotheosis of such serendipity. And I thank it.

  20. Rainheads by Mike Weitz

    “He’s a real piss-on-a-rock liar, Trax is. Raises that eyebrow every time.”

    Wow! as one classic follows another. This book spoils you with its variations of a wordcrafted imaginarium. Spoils you for other potential books. In this one you follow the Trax and Torrents of a post-holocaust radiated world, I infer.
    “Strange, ain’t it? Trax can’t remember half of what I say, but he knows them tunnels better than his own instincts.”
    Dreaming of “lakes that you can actually swim in”, no doubt now corrupted ponds if it were not for the sodding torrents. Living in holes, instead.
    I find myself Gestalt “book-keeping” alongside Carl/Carn about his fellow survivor called Trax, amid ‘falsies’ and ‘jokes’ as well as ‘truths’. Eaters of rats and rabbits, some scrawny and horrible to taste, but necessary to eat. It really makes you experience what they are experiencing. Living in Evenson-like warrens that have collapsed or teetering. And the wonderfully powerful ending. I thought of it being a metaphor for when bosom pals are interrupted by a mate…of whatever gender, “on awe foahs” and “crahwin’.”

  21. My House Is Out Where the Lights End by Kirsty Logan

    “…where in her memory miles of sunflowers gleam brighter than the sun. She finds a field of withered grey stalks, bent under the weight of their dead heads.”

    Dead headed like this book’s earlier dandelions. And Jay returns to the derelict farmhouse where she and her sister originally lived with their parents. Memories of their Dad singing to the sunflowers, his ghost stories, and a ghost harvest, prairie to prayer, scarecrows now decayed to wooden crucifixes, fox piss, mushrooms and bat-baths. B3ECA4F4-783A-4309-9063-0E9D26236A53And a most haunting image created by “a thin inner wall of wooden matchboard, about a foot from the outside walls” that their father built for heat insulation, space between outer and inner being large enough for a person to stand. Who knows what is planted beneath where crucifixes are planted? And did Dad use the car’s hooter, I wonder, when crashing into whatever the subsequent turn of the dogleg road hid from Jay’s sight, perhaps a pretty bit of city rough? A story that is a perfect coda to this book’s hyper-imaginative and osmotic obliquity, its often sporadically feisty and creatively sullen symphony.

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/best-british-short-stories-2011/#comment-11838

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